15 Facts About California’s Economy (#6 Will Blow Your Mind)

Peek behind the curtain of California's dynamic and influential economy.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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With the largest population and the third-largest landmass in the U.S., California boasts an economy that dwarfs others.

Clocking in at over $3.5 trillion in 2022, the state's GDP is the engine powering the nation's economic landscape.

Dive deeper with us to uncover 15 fascinating facts about California's economy and how its residents build wealth.

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California easily has the biggest GDP of any U.S. state

Tada Images/Adobe webpage of gross domestic product

California’s GDP of $3.5 trillion means it has the country’s largest economy — but perhaps more notably, it’s the biggest economy by a huge margin. 

The state with the second-biggest economy, Texas, had a GDP of just over $2.3 trillion in 2022, which puts its economic contribution more than $1 trillion behind California’s.

California’s GDP can compete with entire nations

luzitanija/Adobe california flag waving on banknotes

California’s economy isn’t quite big enough to rival economic powerhouses like Germany. Still, it’s massive enough that if California were its own nation rather than one of the 50 states, it would have the fifth-largest GDP in the world.

Southern California alone has the GDP of 18 states

eyegelb/Adobe flag of california standing on banknotes

In 2022, Southern California contributed nearly $1.6 trillion to the state’s total GDP. No single state makes as much as Southern California does — and only New York and Texas generate more revenue than just this one region of California.

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California has the country’s biggest agricultural industry

InversedSlayer/Adobe temecula vineyard with beautiful greenery on sunny day

California’s massive agricultural industry is responsible for nearly a third of the vegetables consumed across the country and an astonishing three-quarters of its fruits and nuts.

Small businesses make up 98.8% of all California businesses

Creative Clicks /Adobe A happy small business owner

California may be known for its massive Bay Area tech companies, but in 2022, there were 4.2 million small businesses in California, which means they comprised almost 99% of the state’s businesses.

Disneyland might make $13.1 million per day in ticket sales

Ko Be/Wirestock/Adobe california disneyland with statue at front

It’s hard to say for sure how much revenue Disneyland generates every day, but passionate Disney fans who crunched the numbers estimate that the park might rake in $13.1 million each day in ticket sales

That number doesn’t account for food, drink, hotels, transportation, or Disney merch.

The film industry accounts for 700,000 in-state jobs

Anna/Adobe Videographer taking a video

Film and TV work is a crucial segment of California’s economy. It’s responsible for around 700,000 jobs and a total of $70 billion in wages.

The Hollywood strikes cost California’s economy billions

Outlier Artifacts/Adobe angry karen portestor in hollywood

The months-long SAG-AFTRA strike that took place in mid-2023 impacted more than just the summer blockbuster lineup. 

By August 2023, the strike had cost the California economy at least $3 billion.

Small-business employment has grown faster than the national average in California

Beaunitta V W/peopleimages.com/Adobe team of women in workshop

From 1995 to 2019, California’s small-business employment increased by a massive 25%, above the national average.

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California’s pro sports teams are worth a total of $43 billion

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According to the local paper, "The Orange County Register," the 15 biggest pro teams in California are worth a combined $43 billion, which is more than the combined worth of the biggest pro sports teams in any other state.

California has an above-average unemployment rate

Studio Romantic/Adobe job interview

Despite its massive GDP, more Californians are unemployed than the national average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate was 3.7% as of January 2024. 

However, in December 2023, California’s unemployment rate was 5.1%, a 0.2% increase compared to November 2023.

California added enough new jobs in December to account for 10% of the nation’s total job growth

KOTO/Adobe business people shaking hands

Even though the state’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average, California businesses added 23,400 non-farm jobs in December. Nationwide, 216,000 jobs were added that month, and California’s new jobs accounted for 10.8% of that growth.

Six major industries saw solid job growth in 2023

Tomasz Zajda/Adobe male contractor using drill machine

Six of California’s biggest industries gained hundreds of thousands of new jobs in 2023, including private education and health services (150K new jobs), government (78K new jobs), and construction (25K new jobs).

Seven other major industries lost jobs

bongkarn/Adobe office worker quitting a job

In contrast, some long-term staples of the California economy lost several thousands of jobs over the last year, including information technology (down 36K jobs), mining (down 200 jobs), and professional services (down 36K jobs).

San Mateo County has the lowest unemployment in the state

Fred/Adobe male cybersecurity analyst in control room

Perhaps unsurprisingly, San Mateo County — where you’ll find tech hubs like Menlo Park and tourist towns like Half Moon Bay — has a below-average unemployment rate of just 3.2%.

Bottom line

Larry D Crain/Adobe north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge

California’s juggernaut economy is starting the year strong, which is good news — not just for the millions of Californians trying to get ahead financially but for everyone else in the U.S. as well.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.